How to develop an app?
This post sheds light on the key steps to develop an app from concept to wireframe, design, programming, testing & launching. This app is not about the technical aspects of development, it is meant for people working with agencies so they understand the basics of the app development process.
A good app takes a long time to develop, a middle complexity app 400-1,000 hours of work, 3-6 months. Why does it take so long? It takes careful planning and a rigorous process.
What exactly do we want to achieve with the app and what are the key functions. The most common mistake is that there is no real added value of an app and users will not re-open after the 1st use.
Do not under-estimate this one, if this phase is rushed or not thought through properly, your app will be a failure.
User Interface / Wireframe
A wireframe is a screen by screen, button by button design of an app, like a detailed floorplan of a house including all doors, windows, machines and cupboards. It has to be intuitive to use, easy to navigate and making the most of the smartphone’s capabilities. You will need to replicate this process for tablets separately.
Design is what users will see and they will form an impression in 2 seconds about your app. Space is very limited on a smartphone screen, a good design takes time. It is the transformation of the wireframe into visual language. It has to respect your brand’s visual identity, use icons, texts, graphics and animation for an esthetically pleasing, yet clean design. The app icons is a separate challenge, in a few pixels you have to tell a story and be distinctive.
After the creative part, these is also the tiring work of cutting all the buttons, graphic elements one-by-one for each screen size, plus customize design for iPhone and Android specifics.
You have to understand the concept of front-end and back-end. Front-end is the visible part of the app, the wireframe brought to life, where you click and navigate through the functions. Back-end is the online function, where the app retrieves text and data from an online source, like a database, web-site or 3rd party source (like weather, webcam etc.) or connects online in other ways, like social media log-in or posting.
Separate front-end development for iPhone and Android and then a separate server solution for the back-end is needed. User management, social media link, payment module, in-app purchases all add complexity.
A lot of apps have a lot of content, think of an online news app, a map app or say a museum guide app. Someone needs to generate, create this content, then edit and translate it. Sometimes this part is much longer than the development itself (think of a car navigation app).
There is a plethora of devices and operating systems. Testers will test it in all types of situations, wifi, 3G, offline, different OS and device combinations. Users are very impatient, if your app freezes, your users uninstall.
The last bit is a boring, but crucial part. You have to define the app name, app store category, provide description in each language, write keywords and also generate and upload screenshots for a number of screen sizes for both phones and tablets.
For Apple, there is also the app review, where Apple verifies whether the app meets their very detailed guidelines. This will take 6-12 days usually and it may be rejected and then you need to start over.
Additional time is needed for project management – someone will need to coordinate the Client, the user interface specialist, designer, iOS, Android and back-end developers, plus the testers. You will also have to consider time spent with the Clients and reworking based on their request.
We wish you good luck for your app development project – we at Swiss Tomato are happy to help, drop us an email and we will be happy to understand your needs.